This past July, Aeon Mapa of ESSA Secretariat conducted the Introduction to SA workshop to two groups of farmers, all members of the Central Iloilo Stakeholders for Sustainable Agriculture (CISSA). This geographic cluster is the most farmer-heavy in the entire organization and therefore two sessions were needed to cater to all those who were interested.
The Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture workshop, which was conducted for the first time in Antique, and repeated for New Lucena youth, focuses on educating farmers on the need to re-consider their agricultural practices. Topics include: The problems of conventional agriculture and it’s effcts on the climate, established sustainable farming systems, soil ecosystem & microbiome, plant intelligence and even a taste of spiritual science in the context of agriculture. All of these are parts of the 7 dimensions of Sustainable Agriculture. Activities include a seed exchange ceremony, making Biodynamic composts, potentizing and applying BD preps and planning of outputs and initiatives to apply what was learned.
The first batch was held on July 6-8 in the muncipality of New Lucena, thanks to the assistance of Mayor Liecel Seville, an ESSA council member. Farmers from both Pototan and New Lucena were in attendance. The farmers were a mix of organic and converting practicioners and were eager to to learn about how Sustainable agriculture is not only better them, but for the environment.
Practical activities were held at the New Lucena ecopark which now has two BD compost heaps and a Biodynamic garden. The participants soaked in much about the importance of ecosystem, soil biology and farm planning and as a final output created permaculture and diversified plans for their farms.
The second batch was held on July 10-12 in Cabatuan, in a public venue for the first day. The participants were all organic farmers and were all highly eager to learn more. The head of their group began the workshop by reminding the farmers to open their minds and become students once again. Despite their years of practice the participants appreciated the scientific presentation of the workshop and learned many details justifying their work (The municipalities first ever organic farmer, an 80 year old man with 50 years of experience was in attendance), . This gave them the ability to explain their work in an empirical rather than just an anecdotal way.
The practical activities were held at a participants farm, and it quickly became apparent to our staff that everything we were teaching, from all-natural inputs to creating a functional ecosystem were already in practice there! As the farmers listened to lectures and went about the activities, many very useful organic tips and tricks were exchanged.
Bacuse of the high level of expertise among the participants, the final activity was designed to work on a social and political level. The groups were asked to design possible initiatives for their municipality. Among the ideas were a BD composting training in all 100 barangays, a local seed bank and a Sustainable farming season long training.
Speaking of seeds, the seed ceremony was a treasure trove of heirloom and native varieties and everyone went home excited to plant what had been shared.
The seed ceremony is a special activity that we designed to give farmers an experience of the social and spiritual aspects of agriculture. The farmers are asked to sit in silence and offer their seeds by placing them on a beautifully arranged table while one of the staff plays a native flute. The mood of reverence that they experience becomes a entry point into the explanation of spiritual science. The next day, they are asked to form a circle around the table and when given the go signal, to take any seeds they want. This is also an important experience, as they have to feel the needs of the community and take only what they need. This social aspect helps to counteract the grabby, me-first mentality that sometimes permeates some members of humanity.
We are honored to have been given a chance to conduct this workshop with farmers of Central Iloilo. All the best!